Italian coffee culture at home
How to prepare Latte Macchiato like a pro
Latte macchiato - Italian for stained milk – has become very popular around the globe. Originating from Italy, where it was served to children, as it contains little caffeine, it also became popular among grown-ups in the nineties. A large glass of hot milk stained with a shot of espresso - what better way to introduce to the little ones what is probably the most famous coffee culture in Europe?
If you want to enjoy this popular drink at home like in a trendy café, with the right ingredients and the right accessories you can easily conjure up a frothy, beautiful latte macchiato in your own kitchen.
A little clarification of definition
The combination of coffee and milk enjoys unbroken popularity. Although the basic ingredients remain the same, the different variations are an expression of regional coffee culture.
In France, for example, people enjoy a Café au lait in the morning, which is half coffee and half milk. From Italy come two close relatives of the latte macchiato, the Caffè Latte and the Caffè macchiato.
While the Caffè Latte only consists of hot espresso and scalded milk, the Caffè Macchiato also contains milk foam.
Austria, another big coffee nation in Europe, serves the Wiener Melange, which is German and French for Viennesa blend.
In Spain, Café con leche is very popular, which is espresso with milk approximately in equal parts.
The way of serving varies from drink to drink - milk coffee is often drunk from large cups or even bowls.
Ingredients for Latte Macchiato
The classic latte macchiato consists of two basic ingredients: a shot (25 – 30 ml) of hot espresso, and about 200 ml of warm, foamed milk.
The higher the fat and protein content of the milk, the more stable the foam becomes. In addition, fat is a natural flavour enhancer, which means that the flavours of the espresso are boosted by a frothed milk with a higher fat content. Milk also contains galactose, a sugar responsible for its natural sweetness with little effect on insulin receptors. It is therefore worth using whole milk for latte macchiato, even though the foam with half-fat milk is still somewhat effective.
In Italy, part of the milk is often replaced by cream, which of course makes for a particularly rich foam.
There are alternatives to milk for people with lactose intolerance or a vegan lifestyle who want to prepare and enjoy latte Macchiato. Lactose-free milk and even vegan sorts of milk can also be frothed up and provide a sweeter latte macchiato without adding sugar.
The disaccharide lactose in whole milk is split by the enzyme lactase in the gut into the two sugars galactose and glucose. People who lack this enzyme suffer from lactose intolerance. Lactase is added to lactose-free milk, so the lactose is split before the milk is consumed. Galactose and glucose together taste sweeter than lactose. That is the reason why lactose-free milk is sweeter without added sugar.
With vegetable and nut milk you must experiment a little. As these milk alternatives are often very low in fat, it is hard to achieve stable foam. Even though rice or almond milk taste very good in coffee due to their natural sweetness, they are hard to foam. Soy milk is rich in protein and hence still the best to foam, but it does flocculate when it is mixed with coffee or espresso. The flaking can be reduced by a higher fat content in the soy milk or a less sour coffee or espresso, and it is also possible to mix soy milk with rice or almond milk.
Baristas also use oat milk, but they use extra barista oat milk, which foams particularly well. It is, however, much more expensive than regular vegetable milk.
Espresso is characterized by its special preparation. The espresso for the macchiato is ultimately prepared in the same way as usual: hot water is pressed through very finely ground espresso at high pressure. This also makes the espresso significantly milder than filter coffee.
When preparing the macchiato, it should be considered: the better the quality of the beans, the better the latte macchiato. It is worth digging a little deeper into your pocket for the espresso and buying higher quality beans. Buying whole beans and grinding them on the fly prevents valuable aroma from evaporating during storage. It is due to the high amount of milk in this drink that the espresso used may be a little stronger than usual.
From the machine to the mocha pot, there are many ways to prepare an espresso. It is worth trying out what fits your taste best. Regardless of the how the espresso is prepared, about 30 ml of espresso per glass should be calculated.
Latte Macchiato Calories
With low-fat milk and without sugar, the drink contains about 102 kilocalories. Prepared with whole milk, a latte macchiato holds about 135, with soy milk about 110 kilocalories.
If you sweeten the drink with sugar, you should expect 20 kilocalories per teaspoon.
As long as there is no sugar or extra syrup added, the amount of calories of latte macchiato is quite low in contrast to what you might hear.
First, the milk is heated and foamed. This can be done the classic way in a milk pot on the stove. When the milk reaches a temperature of around 60 degrees Celsius, it can be whipped frothy either by hand or with a small battery-powered milk frother. Metal milk frothers with a mesh can also be used.
Steam nozzles to heat and foam milk like you see in cafés are commonly found on espresso machines. The cold milk can be heated and foamed. Make sure that the consistency of the foam is firm and creamy rather than airy with large pores. Therefore, be careful not to suck too much air into the milk with the steam nozzle. Let the foamed milk rest for a few minutes to make the foam also become firmer.
While the milk is resting, the espresso can already be brewed. When using a mocha pot or an espresso cooker on the stove, it is important to wait until all the liquid has passed through the cooker and not to remove the pot from the stove too early by mistake.
When milk, foam and espresso have been prepared, the latte macchiato can be put together. A latte macchiato is traditionally prepared in a large and, above all, tall glass so that the three layers - warm milk, strong espresso, creamy milk foam - can really come into their own.
There are two main variants of how to produce the three layers.
In the first method, the frothed milk is poured all the way into the glass until it is filled about two thirds. Then the espresso is carefully poured into the frothed milk and collects between the milk and the froth.
If you have problems with this, you can also try the second method that consists of two parts. The first step is to pour the heated and foamed milk into the glass until the glass is about two thirds full. You may put some foam into the glass, but it is advised to hold back some of the milk foam with a spoon, so that later, the top of the foam becomes creamy.
Next, pour the espresso not too slowly but gently into the milk and form a separate layer.
Is it important that the espresso is hotter than the warm milk?
Yes. While the density of milk is a little higher than the density of milk, the temperature of the espresso is higher. This is called a double diffusive convection, since the espresso, was it only for density, would sink, but was it only for temperature, it would rise. There are two reciprocal gradients, which in tests led to more than only three layers. Scientists from the university of Princeton have shown that for best results, the Espresso should be poured at a velocity of 0.21 m/s, or approximately 0.76 km/h.
This speed would be reached at a height of approximately 2,25 mm which is less than the thickness of an espresso cup. For this reason, it is important to not use a spoon to layer the espresso to stay above the critical speed of 0.21 m/s.
Finally, carefully use a spoon to add the remaining milk foam onto the espresso.
By the way: If the layers do not work out at all, do not lose your courage: In Italy, the popular drink also comes in a simple light brown mixture - so this is to a great degree more authentic than the chic layers that were established beyond the Alps in the 1990s.
A good milk frother is most helpful - the froth can of course be beaten by hand, but an electric frother or a metal frothing cup are more convenient in everyday use.
Latte macchiato glasses are available in abundance and in all variations from classic to unusual. It is only important that the glasses can withstand the heat of the espresso. In order to not burn your hands, the glass must be thick.
Latte macchiato spoons are usually long handle spoons, so that the rest of the milk foam can be reached from the bottom of the tall glasses. A straw made of metal is also a very good accessory.
A thermometer is useful to determine the correct temperature of the milk.
A latte macchiato is traditionally served without decoration as the mixture of milk foam and coffee is beautiful on its own.
A little cinnamon, cocoa or even brown sugar on the milk froth may be added to taste. At Christmas, a little gingerbread spice on the foam is used as a seasonal touch.
If you like it sweeter and are not quite as traditional, you can stir 30 ml of syrup into the warm milk in the glass - from classics such as caramel and vanilla to the pumpkin spice, popular in the USA, to Chai spices, there are no limits to your own creativity.
Amerettini or a ladyfinger placed on the saucer also bring the bistro feeling into your own kitchen.
There are also biscuit cutters that can be used to bake 'stick cookies' that can be attached to the edge of the glass.
In summer, the iced version of the drink or cold brew coffee is a popular alternative:
Simply brew the espresso, add ice cubes into a latte macchiato glass and cold froth 200 ml of milk.
Pour the milk over the ice cubes and then pour in the still hot espresso.
Spread some caramel syrup over the drink and gently stir with a long handle latte macchiato spoon and enjoy ice-cold.
Tips and tricks
To give the foam a stable texture, swivel the jug and tap it several times on the work surface. In addition, the milk should be heated to between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius for firm foam – a thermometer will help.
For coffee beans, use the beans you like most, but if you are insecure, you cannot go wrong with 100% Arabica beans.
If the layers do not separate properly, try pouring the espresso more rapidly, even though it might be counterintuitive. As we showed above, a certain velocity is required. If you pour it too carefully or alongside of a spoon, you might not reach that speed.
Double-walled insulating glasses not only look good, but they also keep the drink warm for a long time. Glasses with a capacity of about 330 ml are ideal and even offer enough space for a doppio – a double shot of espresso.
Beautiful shapes can be created on the milk foam with milk foam stencils using cinnamon or cocoa - and if you do not have any stencils ready at home, you can also use cookie cutters. With chocolate syrup and the corresponding utensils, real latte art can be created on the milk foam - or the syrup can be distributed on the inside of the glass before the milk is poured in, forming beautiful abstract stripes and patterns.
Preparing the perfect Latte Macchiato
- 200 ml whole milk
- 25 ml espresso
- Slowly heat the milk over medium heat.
- When the milk is warm, remove it from the heat and froth it with the milk frother. Tap the jug carefully onto the worktop several times. Leave to stand for about two minutes so that the froth can set nicely.
- While the milk is resting, prepare the espresso in the preferred way.
- Pour the milk into the glass, partially retaining the foam with a tablespoon.
- Pour in the espresso quickly so that it collects in the middle and the characteristic layers can form.
- Finally, spoon the milk foam onto the espresso. Sprinkle with cocoa powder or cinnamon as desired and enjoy with a biscuit or simply pure.